How Rajon Rondo is helping Jeff Green

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

There's some bad news for tankers: the Celtics are getting better and it's starting with the play between Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

CLNS Radio's Jared WeissJimmy Toscano, and Evans Clinchy talked about Rondo's affect on Jeff Green's production in last night's Garden Report.  The numbers don't lie.  In February, Green averaged over 20 points per game in Rondo's first full month back.  His free throw attempts per game spiked to 6.1 as he became more of a finisher rather than a playmaker with Rondo now at the wheel.  That dynamic relationship was on display last night against the Pistons.

With an over-sized front line featuring Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith (covering Green and flirting pre-game about a Rondo reunion), Rondo and Green cut up the Pistons to a tune of 18 assists with zero turnovers (!!!) and 27 points on nearly 58% shooting respectively.  This was the healthy Rajon Rondo everyone hoped for coming off a year of rehab and the Jeff Green that everybody expected to make the leap with the departure of Paul Pierce.

At CelticsBlog, we've often talked about how Green isn't a natural #1; he may not even be a #2 or #3.  He's certainly a talented scorer, but lacks a killer instinct.  Early in the preseason last year, Scalabrine compared Green to James Worthy.  At the time, White Mamba saw similarities in their game: the quickness with which bother players attacked the rim and the feather touch they had going at full speed.  Almost two years later, the comparison couldn't be more accurate.  Just as Magic sparked Worthy's game, the same can be said about Rondo's effect on Jeff Green.

Let's take a look at some of last night's highlights:

Rondo_to_green_back_door_medium

Rondo assisted on 6 of Green's 11 makes and the first was the loudest.  Sure, the back door cut was on Josh Smith who isn't really known for his defense, but let's give credit where credit is due.  Smith knows his former roommate's game and after Sullinger picks off Jennings, all eyes are on what Rondo might do.  It's that split second of indecision that gives Green the time to charge the baseline to throw it down.

Rondo_to_green_back_door_2_medium

Baseline cut, part II.  It's the same action as before.  Rondo had been slicing up Detroit with pick-and-pops with Humphries through the first half, so Monroe hedges hard on the pick.  It doesn't matter.  Rondo finds Green again with a LEFTY underhand pass for the reverse lay up.

Rondo_to_green_missed_three_medium

This possession is in transition and results in a miss, but it's important to note that with Rondo pushing the pace, a defender's natural instinct is to protect the paint from his penetration.  That gives Green a clean look at a corner three.

Rondo_to_green_drive

This is what Scalabrine was talking about when he called Green "James Worthy 2.0."  It doesn't seem like much but with Rondo on the floor, every defender is aware--and maybe too much so--when he has the ball.  Check out Kyle Singler eyeballing Rondo.  He bites ever so much on a pass fake to a cutting Kelly Olynyk.  Rondo whips it across to Green and now only a player with Green's agility and ability can get to the rim and finish with a finger roll.

Rondo_to_green_off_a_screen_medium

Rondo will get the assist here with most of the work done by Green coming off a series of screen, but consider how much of this play is influenced by Rondo.  First of all as previously stated, he and Humphries were killing the Pistons with pick-and-pops.  That's why the more defensive minded Will Bynum is in the game and why Josh Smith plays Hump more physically and pushes him away.  So much attention is put on that simple action on that side of the floor.  Second, with the threat of Rondo driving the key, Monroe hangs back in the restricted area to cover Green's cut and Rondo's possible penetration.  That frees up Sullinger to hit Singler with a third screen and Green the space to can the mid-range jumper.

Since Rondo's return, Green has been a model of consistency and I think you can expect more improvement from other guys like Sullinger, Olynyk, and especially Bradley as they come back from injury to close out the season.  As Rondo comes into form himself, he is proving to be the rising tide that lifts all boats.

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